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Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Fehr and MoJo Score, Caps Soar 6-2

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Some big saves and timely scoring help the Caps exact a little revenge over the reeling Maple Leafs

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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You generally don't want to be the first opponent a team faces right after they've fired their coach. There can sometimes be a burst of effort and focus that accompanies the change in regime as players attempt to impress the new guy or shake off the guilt of getting the old guy canned.

So of course it was the Caps facing off against the Leafs the day after Toronto announced they'd let Randy Carlyle go.

But if the Leafs got any sort of boost from the coaching change, it was quickly put down by a strong road game from the visiting Caps, who were clearly prepared for what the Leafs were going to throw at them and were able to ride some timely offense, ongoing excellence in net and an overall solid team effort to a big two points on the road.

Check back right here shortly for our full recap, but first, Wednesday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Secondary scoring. Seeing Eric Fehr get a couple of tallies was nice, but not all that surprising considering how hot his hands have been of late. Seeing Marcus Johansson match him goal for goal, however, was pretty fun - and perhaps a sign that his hands are getting a bit toasty, too.
  • Minus: First-period shots... or lack thereof. The Leafs give up the second-most shots per game, behind only Buffalo, and took the ice tonight reeling after their head coach was given the boot and their best player got into a spat with a reporter. So for the Caps to fire only four shots on Jonathan Bernier in the game's opening twenty was not exactly what you'd look for from a road team looking to take the hometown team - and crowd - out of it early.

And now, this...

  • The Caps didn't generate a whole lot of anything (as far as shots on net go, at least) in the first period of this game, managing to get just four shots through to Jonathan Bernier. But all that mattered was that one of those got through... and it was a laser of a shot, no less. Marcus Johansson's shot went in the net and out so fast that most of the guys on the ice didn't realize it had gone in... but Johansson knew. Hell of a shot.
  • It was also a pretty big goal for the Caps, because if you've been paying attention - and we know you have, you perceptive munchkins, you - you're aware of just how good the Caps have been when scoring the first goal. Sure, some of it is luck, and there are the odd blown leads and shootout wins scattered throughout, but the Caps are now 20-1-2 when they get on the board first.
  • Braden Holtby was, again, amazing when he needed to be for the Caps (and again, it was nice to see him not necessarily have to be amazing to get the win). His best saves came out of a crazy sequence in front of the Caps net in the second half of the first period, when he made a diving save on Daniel Winnik right in front of the net. And then when the puck got lost in the ensuing scramble and bounced out to the point, he got back in position... and then made another great save after the puck bounced out to the point.
  • Unfortunately Holtby couldn't stop Winnik a second time, when a shot from the point bounced off of a couple of bodies and sticks in front of the net to tie the game early in the second period. That's pretty much the only way people are beating him these days, so it's okay..
  • The Caps have been taking a lot of penalties lately, but they did a much better job of staying out of the penalty box tonight, heading there just three times (and only going shorthanded twice). But it is a bit frustrating to see that one of those was another penalty taken by the usually disciplined Nicklas Backstrom - he has ten PIMs in the last six games.
  • And yet the Caps seemed to do okay with one of their leaders and penalty killers in the box, as they picked up their first shorthanded goal of the year (one of just three teams with no shorthanded goals coming into tonight's game). Good hustle by Jay Beagle to hunt down the puck in the Leafs’ corner after the clear, and equally good hustle by Eric Fehr to shake the incredibly intense backcheck (...jokes) of David Clarkson and get himself into scoring position. With that the Caps regained the lead, just 1:31 after relinquishing it. Yeah, that's a good way to respond.
  • Of course, for every beautiful shot that went into the net tonight (and there were several), there has to be at least one that was... well, less than beautiful. And tonight, that award went to the shot by Brooks Laich off a faceoff that took a weird carom and absolutely fooled Bernier.
  • That two-goal lead got chiseled down a bit after some good cycle play by the Leafs resulted in a rebound off of Holtby’s left pad for Trevor Smith. Who apparently is a person who plays for the Leafs. But just as before, the Caps answered right back, and faster this time, regaining that two-goal cushion less than a minute later. Nice work by the trio of Johansson, Troy Brouwer and Evgeny Kuznetsov to respond with some strong cycling of their own before getting the puck to Johansson - who actually shot the puck, stunning us all.
  • And it's not like Fehr was going to let Johansson steal his thunder - no, Mr. January himself got a two-goal game in his own right with a half-slapshot that beat Bernier far side. Just his sixth goal in his last five games, his second two-goal game over that span and his fifth-straight game with at least a point, no bigs.
  • As good as the Caps' second and third lines were tonight (and you decide which one is which), it's not as if the top line was exactly quiet. They combined for 12 shots on or towards the net, with Alex Ovechkin adding an absolute missile of a shot that hit the post... and probably dented it. That they weren't as dominant as we've seen, but it's nice to have the Caps' secondary scoring step up once again. And it's not like Ovechkin was going to be left out of the fun, as he added an empty-netter for his 20th of the season.
  • So the Caps take a big two points away from a team they're battling for a playoff spot, and continue their road dominance that has fueled them all season. Next up? A Division matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers, the first of the season - and a big test for this Caps team that has struggled in the second of back-to-back games.

    Game highlights: